I just finished erecting my Sukkah for this year. Each year I always plan to have it ready much earlier than three hours before Sukkot begins. Each year I plan on creating a beautiful, Sukkah made of natural woods so that it would truly be a testament to the beauty of God's world. I even designed a deck for my house which would have the Sukkah Frame built into it so that all I would have to do each year would be to hang beautiful wooden sides and the Sechach (branch covering). Unfortunately those designs are still on paper because it was too expensive to build. So, this year, as I have for the past 20 or so years, I pulled out the metal poles and canvas cloth Sukkah I bought in desperation when I realized my plans for something nicer were not going to come to fruition in time for the holiday. My poor Sukkah is so sad looking. I have lost some of the joins for the poles and have not been able to replace them. So we now have the proverbial duct tape helping hold the Sukkah together. The wonders of duct tape!
As I look at my sad little Sukkah sitting in my yard instead of the dream house Sukkah I wish were there, I think though, that because it is so weak and ugly, I will have greater appreciation for the meaning of this holiday. For I know that there are hundreds of thousands of people all over this world who would love to have even the little bit of shelter my weak little Sukkah offers. I know that there are people who would love to have a corner of my yard to call their own. I know that the meals I will eat in it during the coming week will provide me with nutrition others lack. When I was a child, we used to make strings of cranberries and popcorn to decorate the Sukkah, Then I realized that food should not be wasted on Sukkot decorations. Instead of wasting food, I ran food collections for the hungry. It was a much more beautiful use of food.
Sukkot reminds us too of the travails of the our ancestors as the traversed the desert trying to find a place to settle in peace and security. These thousands of years later we live in a world in which peace and security is not a reality for all people. We live in a world full of mistrust, greed and violence. We live in a world where hundreds of thousands of people go to sleep each night without knowing when they will have their next morsel of food. But rather than sit and bemoan this sad state of affairs, there are things we can do. We can give non-perishable foods to a local food bank. We can donate to organizations like Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger and AJWS: American Jewish World Service who are working hard to alleviate the suffering of the hungry and the homeless. While these small actions won't solve the problems of our world completely, they are definitely a step in the right direction. So I guess my little Sukkah is just right the way it is....at least for this year.
Chag Sameach. A joyous Sukkot Festival to you all.
P.S. One week to go until our podcast goes live!